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Why?! Thoughts on the Texas shooting

November 9, 2017

Another week, another heart-break! It seems the past two months have brought a concentrated dose of tragedy as we have faced terrible floods, catastrophic hurricanes, a terror attack in Manhattan and two record-breaking mass killings. Tragic news stories and pictures of devastation seem all too common and it feels like this is the “new normal” for our society.

texas-shooting

As a pastor and school teacher, the question about evil, pain and suffering are among the most asked questions that people have. Why does God allow all of this pain and suffering? Why do the innocent suffer? Why aren’t evil people stopped? Why is life so hard? Philosophers and theologians refer to this as, “The problem of evil.” For Christians, evil and suffering is a “problem” because it requires an explanation. How can it be that a good God who is all-powerful allow such terrible things to happen to people He loves? This is indeed an important question and is probably the most common reason people turn away from God. I’d like to take a couple of paragraphs and address this.

Evil is everyone’s “problem”

Before I do, I’d like to point out that the mystery why we experience such terrible pain and suffering isn’t just a “problem” for Christians. It’s a problem for everyone and every belief system. The reason is because we all know intuitively that life shouldn’t be this way. We all know that an 18-month-old toddler shouldn’t be gunned down in a Sunday morning church service. When the famous atheist Bertrand Russel said, “No one can sit beside the bedside of a dying child and still believe in God.” He assumes that tragedies prove that a good God can’t exist. The problem is that the atheist can’t explain why the death of a child is tragic in the first place.

You see, if atheism is really true, then life and death are natural, unsurprising experiences of reality. Living organisms die all of the time. No surprise here. But we all know that isn’t the issue. We all know there’s something fundamentally unfair and wrong going on here. In the atheist’s world, life is a product of random, blind, purposeless chance. There’s no Author of life who fills it with ultimate purpose and design. So, when evil, pain and suffering happen, we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just random bad luck in a randomuniverse. But we are surprised!! We are shocked! Suggesting all of this misery is simply bad luck, miserably fails to address what we know when a tragedy strikes. It isn’t “bad luck” that people were murdered; it’s an outrageous crime against humanity. Things like this shouldn’t happen!

Faith in the face of evil

So how do I as a Christian hold on to my faith in the face of reckless evil and suffering? Why doesn’t God stop the Hitlers of the world from carrying out their evil plans?Why does it seem that nature itself indiscriminately kills innocent people in earthquakes and floods? Much has been written on this and I will post some links at the end of this article but let me briefly say two things.

First, the Bible makes it clear that God did not intend for us to experience the pain and suffering that we do now. God’s original design was for humankind to continue his work of creation as his representatives on this Earth. (See Genesis 1:26-28). However, the first humans disobeyed God and immediately began experiencing the bitter consequences of the broken relationship between themselves and the Author of life. So, human history is the long, sad terrible story of life cut off from the good Creator. This explains why tragedies are tragic. They cut against the grain of how life was designed. Evil, pain and suffering isn’t supposed to be a part of the human experience. That’s why no matter how long humans have lived and died on this planet, death still feels wrong. Because it is.

Second, the good news of Jesus is that God hasn’t abandoned us to suffer in a broken world. God, himself, came to rescue us from the consequences of our sin and rebellion. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died, that the curse of sin and death was broken. (See: Romans 5: 7-8; Galatians 3:13; II Corinthians 5:21). And the resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of God’s new creation. (I Corinthians 15:45-58; Revelation 3:14). As Christians, we are waiting for Jesus’ glorious return when he will restore and finally transform creation (Philippians 3:20-21). Jesus will rule, and we with him, over new creation. God’s original project for life on Earth will be restored. God and humanity will be forever united and evil, pain and death will be forever abolished. (See: II Timothy 1:10; Revelation 21:1-4).

We live in this in between time. Jesus has come. He suffered and died. And in times like these it’s important to know that our God knows suffering. Jesus experienced first-hand our heartbreaks and pain. (John 11:1-44; Hebrews 2:9-10; 17-18) But the story didn’t end there, we have hope! He was raised up in victory over death. He defeated death. So now we wait with expectant hope that the one who defeated death will return and finally bring everything under his feet (Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 2:8). I’ll leave you with this incredible promise from Jesus, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. He has overcome! And when he returns, he will make all things new! (Revelation 21:5).

For more on resolving the problem of evil pain and suffering from a Christian perspective please see:

 

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